PARK CITY — A mistrial has been declared in the case of three men accused of gang raping a 9-year-old girl because not enough people showed up for jury duty.
"It's frustrating," said Utah Courts spokesman Geoff Fattah. "We can’t administer justice without jurors."
Larson Rondeau, 36, Jerry Flatlip, 29, and Randall Flatlip, 26, are each charged with rape of a child and sodomy on a child, first-degree felonies. In April, a judge agreed to move the trial to Summit County due to the extensive and impassioned public outcry by Uintah County residents against the three men in the case, as well as the small population.
Police say the three men took turns raping a 9-year-old girl while her mother did drugs in another room. In a video interview played in court during a preliminary hearing, the 9-year-old girl described how the men woke her on Easter Sunday as she was sleeping on a couch. From there, they took her to a back bedroom and held down her arms and legs while each sexually assaulted her, she said.
The court summoned 120 Summit County residents to show up for jury duty for the trial, Fattah said. Taking into account those who had informed the court they had valid excuses for not showing up, the court expected to have 96 potential jurors to question Tuesday.
But 36 people summoned for jury duty were no-shows, Fattah said.
Attorneys went ahead with questioning those who did show up, attempting to seat an eight-person jury with two alternates. To do that, both sides agreed there needed to be 26 finalists. When they narrowed the pool to 21, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial before the trial even began, he said.
The public needs to remember that jury duty is something everyone does, Fattah said.
"We want people to take it seriously. Nobody is exempt,” he said.
Skipping jury duty is a class C misdemeanor. The judge now has the option of calling those 36 people into court and asking them why they didn't show up, according to Fattah.
As for the case, attorneys can try again to have a trial. The three defendants will remain in the Uintah County Jail until a decision is made about the next step in the case.